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“This is a rocking chair moment”

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“This is a rocking chair moment”

A discussion with John Mason, global leader of IBM’s middle market practice, about IBM’s newly issued report “The Customer-activated Enterprise,” and the convergence of Big Data, cloud, social media and mobile.

IBM recently issued a report on the attitudes of middle market C-suite executives on the increasing emphasis on technology, and specifically technology that facilitates collaboration both internally and externally, and its impact on strategy and other business decisions.  We sat down with John Mason, the Global Manager for IBM Midmarket, to discuss the findings.

Hear the entire interview in our FOCUS on the Middle Market Podcast here.PCEO: In addressing the kinds of things you’re talking about in the report - pretty cutting-edge things - have you noticed, particularly in your role as the global leader of midmarket for IBM, a certain reluctance to adopt at middle market companies?

Mason: I think in companies of all sizes there is natural resistance to change. But competitive forces seem to be increasingly driving a need to change. So what we did in this study, where we actually had face-to-face interviews with over 300 C-suite executives from midmarket companies, was to try to understand how they see the market forces and competitive dynamics that are opening up new opportunities, but at the same time presenting new challenges to them as they think about their business.

What we have seen through the study is that technology, over the past two to three years, has quickly risen to the top of the things the C-suite cares about and sees as a dominant driver of change in their business. In particular, I think we’re seeing a drive to quickly open up their organizations to outside influences.

So even while most successful companies would say that they are customer centric, I think one of the things that we’re seeing now is - particularly with the mainstreaming of social media - that customers are actually kind of shaping the decisions that are being made by C-suite executives. It’s literally more of an “outside-in” than “inside-out” approach to drive strategic directions and business decisions on a very practical level.

"All of the data from the beginning of mankind through 2003 is now created roughly every two days, and within the next few years it will be every two minutes."

PCEO: Being able to capture the customer perspective on things has certainly got a “Big Data” dimension, right?

Mason: Yes.  The amount of data that companies have to deal with is increasing at an almost scary rate. The forecasts from various industry analysts suggest that we’re going to have a 1023 increase in data over the next three years. All of the data from the beginning of mankind through 2003 is now created roughly every two days, and within the next few years it will be every two minutes.

So, there is clearly a massive amount of data volume. But it’s not just about volume. It’s also the velocity, or the speed at which this data now comes into the company. And it’s not nicely-formatted, structured data any more. It’s coming from multiple devices and different formats, including unstructured data and video.

So, there’s more of it, and it’s less structured. We think of the third “V,” which is veracity. What’s the context? How can I actually use this ambiguous, uncertain data? That’s where analytics comes in. I think there is a real opportunity for companies to start to sift through this massive data to get something that’s useful and meaningful and actionable, that they can do something with.

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